The debate continues. The Government and some on Labour’s front bench insist it’s not an extension of powers. The point at detail is whether their new definition of “telecommunication service” extends legitimate targets for warrants beyond that which it was previously understood be, to include webmail providers such as Google. It is clear that the new law extends the ability to issue warrants to overseas entities such as Facebook. I thought they were tapping email at the ISP’s mail forwarding queues so why they need this is unclear. The Tories insist it’s not an extension, it merely restates the status quo; but since they think that what GCHQ have been doing is legal then taking the opportunity to clarify the grey areas is not a problem to them. What troubles me is the ease with which the Labour & LibDem front benches agreed.
The Court of Justice of the European Union has declared the blanket retention of data by the ISPs to be illegal. The status quo is thus illegal, even if GCHQ were behaving inside the rules set down by RIPA, which we will discover when it gets to court. The Tories and securocrats should note that their idea that it ain’t surveillance if it’s not seen by people is controversial; it is not an agreed truth. Is this just another securocrat stampede as was the Official Secrets Act, RIPA & the Prevention of Terrorism Act or is there a specific fear? Is it the US use of British intelligence to target drone strikes? And what happened to the legality of spying in the economic interests of the British economy? Did that stay in?